The King of the Monsters still reigns in Japan — and most other places.
Godzilla’s grasp on fans and pop culture began 68 years ago, but the radioactive mega lizard’s influence on global audiences has been growing due to recent box office successes and increasing access on streaming services.
To capitalize on this moment, Toho, the Japanese film studio that owns the monster and licenses it to Legendary in the U.S., said it will produce a new Godzilla film a year from Thursday, the anniversary of the monster’s first film.
The untitled movie, which will first be released in Japan and then later to the United States and other markets, will be Toho’s first since “Shin Godzilla” in 2016. Toho has released few details about the new film, other than Takashi Yamazaki — a prolific filmmaker who worked on visual effects for “Shin Godzilla” — will direct the movie.
“Godzilla’s long history has shaped the world of pop culture and monster fandom for nearly 70 years,” said Lora Cohn, managing director of Toho International, the L.A.-based subsidiary of film, theater production and distribution company Toho.
Toho tweeted a teaser poster of the upcoming movie with its release date late Wednesday evening.
The new film comes as global audiences have more access to Godzilla content than ever before thanks to deep libraries of movies and TV series on streaming services. The recent box office success of U.S. studio Legendary’s Monsterverse, which kicked off with a Godzilla film in 2014 and led to “Godzilla vs. Kong” in 2021, has also helped.
The films, especially the most recent installment, have been among some of the most in demand on streaming services. Since late March 2021 through October 2022, “Godzilla vs. Kong” has been the third most in-demand movie with U.S. audiences across all platforms and genres, behind “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “The Batman,” according to data provider Parrot Analytics. Globally, it’s fourth most in-demand.
“There’s more access to Godzilla than ever before because of streaming services and the internet,” said Bill Tsutsui, a historian and academic known for his expertise in Godzilla. “Growing up, it was hard for me to meet other Godzilla fans. There was no forum or social media for a gathering around monsters.”
“Godzilla vs. Kong,” one of the first films to hit theaters after Covid shutdowns, was a box office hit, raking in more than $468 million in global sales. A sequel is in the works for 2024.
Godzilla has graced the silver screen in various forms, first in 1954 in Japan’s “Gojira,” and then in later films produced out of the monster’s home country. The first Godzilla film made completely in the U.S. came out in 1998, reviving the appetite for the monster’s movies, but received poor reviews.
“When Legendary brought back Godzilla in 2014, I was like, ‘Oh cool, this thing I grew up loving is finally being taken seriously by Hollywood. We all know the late-90s Godzilla aged like milk,” said Chris Anderson, 31, of Northern California, who’s been a fan of Godzilla films since he was a toddler. (The 1998 American “Godzilla,” from the team behind “Independence Day,” became a punchline, especially in Japan. In Toho’s “Godzilla: Final Wars,” released in 2004, the Japanese Godzilla destroys the U.S. version.)
Even Toho’s “Shin Godzilla” has staying power outside of Japan, hitting a peak in U.S. demand between Jan. 2021 and October 2022, according to Parrot Analytics. The film is available only for rental or purchase on platforms like Amazon Prime Video or Apple’s iTunes. In Japan, “Shin Godzilla” has also been high in demand, and has outperformed “Godzilla vs. Kong” since the beginning of 2021, according to Parrot.
“For so many decades Japanese people weren’t terribly proud of creating this movie monster. It was not as big a deal in Japan as Godzilla was abroad. Recently though, the Japanese, including the Toho studio, have come to realize what a huge property Godzilla is, and they’ve done a much better job of leveraging and marketing Godzilla and growing that property,” Tsutsui said. “Japanese have a new found sense of pride in the monster, and that’s an important addition here.”
Godzilla-fan Anderson enjoyed all of the recent Legendary films, but is a big fan of Toho’s “Shin Godzilla” in 2016. “I’m still waiting for a follow-up to that one,” Anderson said.
Streaming has also become a new outlet for Godzilla to make his mark, with services like Pluto TV running all-day stunts of Godzilla movies on its “Cult Films” ad-supported channel on Nov. 3, and others featuring libraries of both the Japanese and American films.
“There are so many new opportunities for enjoying Godzilla and being creative with the monster,” Tsutsui said.
In 2017, Toho Animation and Polygon created an anime trilogy about Godzilla for Netflix, while Legendary Television is bringing a Godzilla series with executive producers from Toho to Apple TV+, which will be set in the same universe as the recent films from Legendary.
The series, which is still unnamed, got some star power behind it this summer when father and son actors Kurt and Wyatt Russell joined the cast.
Meanwhile, Toho also unveiled on “Godzilla Day,” as Nov. 3 is known to fans, that it is putting “Godzilla Island,” an animated Japanese series that has never been available in the U.S., on its YouTube channel. The series, made up of 256 episodes that each run a few minutes long, was on Japanese TV in the late ’90s and will be available in mid-November.
Connecting audiences through social media is also top of mind for Toho, which looked to influencers to showcase Godzilla in different forms.
Also Thursday, influencer Vivian Xue Rahey, the founder of a nail salon that took its business primarily online during the pandemic lockdown and ships press-on nails with requested art to its customers, will unveil Godzilla-themed nail designs. Xue Rahey’s TikTok channel has 2.6 million followers.
“Toho came to me awhile ago and wanted to me create something really epic,” Xue Rahey said, emphasizing that special effects were to be showcased, particularly the heat ray Godzilla is known for.
While Xue Rahey and her company have received requests for Godzilla nail art before, this time she used special effects on the nail sets themselves, such as thermal color changes. There will be a contest to win a free set of Godzilla nails Thursday.
Toho films will also hit theaters for special showcases Thursday.
Fathom Events partnered with Toho will release “Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla,” the 2002 Japanese film from Toho, in U.S. theaters for the first time ever. Additionally, indie movie theater chain Alamo is also showing the original film, known in Japan as “Gojira,” in 4K high definition, in all of its markets from Thursday through Nov. 6.